Drag Illustrated Issue 178, September / October 2022 - Page 42

Dirt

The Pawuk Family Legacy Continues

Kyle and Kassandra Pawuk learn the ropes at Frank Hawley ’ s Drag Racing School By Ainsley Jacobs

Having grown up at the racetrack watching their father , Mark “ Cowboy ” Pawuk , race in the NHRA Pro Stock ranks , siblings Kyle and Kassandra Pawuk recently attended Frank Hawley ’ s Drag Racing School and are actively continuing their family ’ s drag racing legacy .

Mark and his wife , Bonnie , raised their children to be strong , independent young adults and encouraged them to pursue their passions . Kyle played football for the University of San Diego while Kassandra pursued swimming and softball . Although Mark had taken a hiatus from drag racing for more than a decade to focus on his family , both Kyle and Kassandra encouraged him to get back at it with NHRA Factory Stock – and they each wanted to give driving a try , too .
“ My wife and I talked and we both wanted the kids to go to a drag racing school to get experience , but the only place I would allow them to go was Frank Hawley ’ s School ,” states Mark . “ I attended several times through General Motors when I was racing professionally , and I knew it ’ s a professional , first-class operation .”
When the family realized that there was an
upcoming session in mid-July of 2022 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk , Ohio , they seized the opportunity to finally have Kyle and Kassandra participate at a track near their homes .
Kyle , 25 , works by day as a superintendent of a Cleveland-based general contractor but is still actively involved in drag racing and had already been down the track a few times in a variety of Sportsman cars . “ When we showed up , I didn ’ t know anyone except my sister . It was an interesting dynamic – we were the youngest ones there ,” shares Kyle , who expected more rookie racers of his own age .
The two-day licensing school kicked off with Frank Hawley ’ s renowned classroom sessions , where he educated students on the logistics of drag racing and the importance of the mental side of things . “ It was great and they taught us so
much ,” Kyle adds of the experience , which soon transitioned to on-track racing . “ I was happily surprised that , after making a run , they would go over the details and discuss the things we could be doing better . I enjoyed learning how your brain works and how that impacts your function as a driver .”
For him , letting go of the trans brake button for the first time was a truly memorable experience . Kyle quickly got the hang of things , though , as he went from initial sensory overload to more situational awareness . “ At first , it was just , hold on and go straight and hope it ’ s OK ,” he laughs . “ By the end , I had a better feel of where the car was on the track , what it was doing , and what I was doing as a driver .”
Kyle was able to drive both a Super Comp dragster and a Super Gas door car . Although
he enjoyed piloting a dragster for the first time , he prefers the greater challenge that an enclosed door car provides due to the limited visibility .
“ Overall , it was a great experience and I was fortunate to be able to attend Frank Hawley ’ s School ,” affirms Kyle , who is already hard at work building his own Chevrolet to run in Super Gas in the near future . “ Learning from some of the best in the sport was huge , and everyone was very helpful .”
Kassandra , however , had never been down the dragstrip at all – despite having worked in hospitality and social media for years with many of NHRA ’ s top-tier teams .
“ The classroom was excellent and then it was time to get in the car … I wasn ’ t nervous about racing until I did it !” confesses the 27-year-old . Although she admittedly struggled with stress , it was thanks to the support and encouragement of both the school ’ s staff and her fellow classmates that Kassandra was able to push through and persevere in the school ’ s Super Comp licensing course . “ By day two , it was totally different and I had a lot of fun .”
For her , enjoying the experience was secondary to being able to more accurately understand what her client-drivers go through on a day-to-day basis . Kassandra was pleased to expand her working knowledge from behind the starting line to behind the wheel , too , which will ultimately strengthen her career .
“ It doesn ’ t matter if you ’ ve been in a car or never raced at all like me … if you have the chance to attend the Frank Hawley School – do it !” asserts the media professional .
“ I ’ ve known Mark for many years and have great respect for him as a racer , businessman , and parent ,” says Frank Hawley , the school ’ s founder . “ Mark and Bonnie should be very proud of Kyle and Kassandra . These are bright kids that will do very well in any profession they choose .”
With both Kyle and Kassandra having excelled during their time at Frank Hawley ’ s Drag Racing School , their father , Mark , is thrilled to see the second-generation racers following in his footsteps . His parents were there to encourage his drag racing endeavors , and he is honored to now be able to do the same for his children . “ I got goosebumps seeing them run ,” he says . “ I don ’ t know where their paths will go , but if I ’ m on the starting line watching , then Bonnie and I will be pretty lucky .” DI
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF FRANK HAWLEY ’ S DRAG RACING SCHOOL
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